Taking Total Sanitation and Hygiene on wheels: Welemu, a driver of rural sanitation in Mulaje District, Malawi

Plan International | John Kelleher from Plan International, on 30/11/2016 13:35 AEST

When the CLTS approach was introduced for the first time in communities around Kambenje Health Center, people were disgusted with what they saw during the fecal oral route demonstration. This has triggered change in knowledge, attitude, and practice of community members’ and created increased demand for sanitation products and services.

To address this demand, Plan International Malawi has provided training and ongoing support to sanitation masons and artisans in rural areas of Mulanje District. Welemu Munyemu was one of the participants who has since started a business.  With a little capital Welemu established a small business constructing latrines, drop-hole covers and hand washing facilities to meet consumer demands at affordable prices.

Welemu narrates his humble beginning, “I launched my business with K2000.00, with this capital I went to Phalombe district to buy empty 5 lites bottles and pieces of timber for making hand washing facilities and drop hole covers.”  As a front liner provider, Welemu has established strong partnership with chiefs and Health Surveillance Assistants as well as built links with Natural Leaders and Village Health Committees supporting the drive for open defecation free Mulanje District.  His initiative has made Welemu a household name in communities around Kambenje Health Center.

Asking if he earns profit in his business, Welemu smiled and started with a confession, “Frankly speaking my past was difficult; being a subsistence farmer income was always fallen short to take care of my family. Since I started this business, things have turned around…. This is a lucrative venture that meets my ends. I am earning smart out of it and I see a change. For your information, I escaped the 2015 hunger season because of this business.  During that time I managed to buy rice, apart from maize, to eat with my family and mother in-law.”

As of now, Welemu has sold over 280 hand washing facilities, 500 drop-hole covers and constructed 9 mawira corbelled latrines in villages surrounding Kambenje Health Centre.  The business has assisted people in these communities to use improved sanitation and safe hygiene practices. Welemu sees his business flourish in the future, “I am dreaming in colours right now, I want to establish a Sanitation Market Center when I save more capital” he says.